This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Italian design legend Achille Castiglioni’s birth ( born Feb 28th, 1918 died 2nd Dec 2002 )
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Achille Castiglioni, the Achille Castiglioni Foundation entrusted the curation of an exhibition to Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi, who created the project concept — to ask 100 Italian and international designers to write and send to Achille a congratulatory Birthday Card and at the same time, to give to him their favorite anonymous object.
The ” 100 x 100 Achille” exhibition is as playful and design-saturated as he would have loved.
The 100 invited designers included former university students or designers who have been inspired by his work eg the Bourorullec brothers, Studio Formafantasma, Konstantin Grcic, Giulio Iacchetti, Enzo Mari, Alessandro Mendini, Philippe Starck, Patricia Urquiola too name just a few
A tribute to the master who is also a focus on one of the most investigated themes in the design world today. Because it is in the curiosity for everyday objects and the investigation of their function that a new planning can find space.
Achille Castiglioni liked to play with objects. One of the greatest passions of the Italian master was collecting pieces of ordinary and anonymous design, objects without brand or precise author.
He not only taught how to design things well, but also and above all, how to fall in love with what’s around us and how to live life with the joy and enthusiasm of a child.
Achille Castiglioni’s passion for objects of anonymous design is evidenced by the famous glass cabinetry in his studio, which exhibits all those collected throughout a lifetime.
“ I collect objects, I keep a bit of everything, anonymous objects. I keep them aside every time an object appears with an intelligent design component.” …………. Achille Castiglioni
All 100 gifts are anonymous creations, just like those Castiglioni sought out and collected throughout his life, choosing them based on the way they work rather than who designed them.
The only rule was that the gifts had to be anonymous, cheap, compact and accompanied by a greeting card.
Over the course of several months they received all sorts of gifts.
The objects may differ by kind, material or type, but are united by an ingenious concept identified by the designers.
The 100 objects represent the first collection for a “Museum of anonymous objects”, that showcases items created by unknown artists, but nonetheless singled out by very famous designers.
These anonymous objects of different kinds, materials and types will become part of a Show and be displayed in the extraordinary setting of Achille Castiglioni’s studio
100 anni fa nasceva Achille Castiglioni, il maestro che ha trasformato gli oggetti quotidiani in capolavori
Posted by Living Corriere on Friday, 16 February 2018
“ There has to be irony, both in design and in the objects. I see around me a professional disease of taking everything too seriously. One of my secrets is to joke all the time.” …………. Achille Castiglioni
“ He was inspired by anonymous objects…that is, things that were useful and cheap, for example daily objects like toys or rolling pins. He remained very curious to find inspiration everywhere- in new materials, especially in new bulbs from America, books and magazines. He also spent a lot of time in hardware stores “
“ His design philosophy was to reduce things to their essential elements. He was also committed to solving problems and simplifying designs during the process by being beside the workers. He wanted to solve problems for people because he was always curious about people in general. “
“ He loved so much to investigate his projects with the students and would often bring a suitcase full of anonymous objects. He explained things through objects, like form and function through scissors. I would sometimes follow him to university- it was amazing to see a man absolutely young and open in front of every object. He was enthusiastic about his life and enjoyed it. “ …… Giovanna Castiglioni
On a wall next to the objects are the 100 greeting cards from the 100 participating designers , all made by hand on a card provided by the foundation.
They range from simple birthday wishes, to elaborate illustrations, questions, confessions and declarations of love.
They’re hanging from common office paperclips—another everyday masterpiece by an anonymous designer.
“Think of a designer, any designer… and I bet they’re in there,” said Giovanna Castiglioni with pride, pointing to the dozens of signed greeting cards on the wall at the Achille Castiglioni Foundation.
That collection is, indeed, a who’s who of contemporary design: from Michael Anastassiades to Marcel Wanders, from home grown legends like Alessandro Mendini to rising stars like Formafantasma.
In the middle of the Studio are a number of vitrines, full of the objects that the 100 x designers selected to help celebrate what would have been Castiglioni’s hundredth birthday
It’s both a chorale song against overdesign and a playful wink to Castiglioni’s penchant for anonymous knick-knacks —like the utilitarian found objects and odd plastic toys that still fill the display cabinets in his former studio in Milan, where the Foundation is housed today.
The collection of gifts is displayed in camping wardrobes designed by Calvi Brambilla.
Lightweight and easy to carry, they are the perfect solution for an exhibition meant to travel.
” Very soon the exhibition will go to other places in Italy and abroad, but most of all we wish this could just the first step for a permanent museum of anonymous design objects, provided by famous designers and common people, something that would be amazing to have here in Milan.“…………….. Giovanna Castiglionii.
Going through the 100 objects is a journey into personal memory as well as the history of design and innovation.
It is an homage to the great interest Castiglioni had for non-designer items: scissors, eyeglasses, gadgets and other fruits of folk ingenuity.
From A for Massimiliano Adami to Z for Nika Zupanc, and under the curatorship of Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi, the exhibition reflects the wittiness, light-heartedness and curiosity that characterised Castiglioni as a designer, teacher and friend.
There was no greater prestige for Achille Castiglioni, than being part of the army of unknown designers who made the world more beautiful by creating the everyday objects that he loved to collect and display in his studio.
He appreciated the innovative character and simplicity of these objects, and the clever functionality of their design
There is his subtle, ironic and graceful intelligence in this small thing that millions use with no second thought, because it’s as if it had always been there.
These birthday gifts, mostly inexpensive and of unknown origin, are a symbolic addition to the master’s cabinet of anonymous curiosities.
“ It’s lovely to hold and makes a nice sound and it is produced in great quantities yet nobody knows who made it, they have a lot to teach about good design. ” ……………………… Achille Castiglioni
” Click. I move the lever of the small black plastic switch that was inserted through a yellow chord and which I am wearing as a necklace. And I think: this is what living forever is all about. Because Achille Castiglioni is certainly all here, in this small object that he was so proud to have designed with his brother Pier Giacomo.” …………… Giovanna Castiglioni
Amongst the gifts there are very poetic objects that recall the olden days but many others are part of our contemporary daily life and we use them everyday without thinking about them.
And amongst these anonymous objects there are also some whose authors are well known but that have become so used and popular that the name of their creator no longer matters, their value is in their use.
“ Some objects were 100% ananymous in a Castiglioni way. Others have enlightened us on different meanings to give to the word “ ……… Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi.
This is thus another level of meaning for the exhibition. Because what is anonymous varies according to the geography, the native language, the generation.
For some it means something that is known by everyone, others think of objects that are intuitive to use.
There are designers for whom the aesthetics are part of anonymity, others who do not understand this at all.
Some of the objects are immediately understandable in their function like the paperclip sent by Philippe Starck
Others are mysterious and reveal their nature only after being explained for example the juicer from Barber & Osgerby
Some are items easy to find at any hardware store such as the mousetrap gift from Ingo Maurer
Others are dedicated to very specific professional tasks like the profilometer from Patricia Urquiola
Some are global icons such as Marcel Wanders paper festoon
Others are typical of specific cultures like the hat of the shepherds of Northern Italy, a gift of Alessandro Mendini
Some are humble, like the sturdy broom sent by Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarch
“ Wittiness and curiosity. He had a lot of class, an Italian brand of class you don’t see much anymore, with a permanent cigarette. Participating in this celebration is an honour for us, it’s exciting. As aspiring designers, one of our first pilgrimages was here to his studio-house on Piazza Castello, with Giovanna as our sensational guide. It was one of those experiences that give you a brainwave, when you suddenly understand what road you want to follow, with Castiglioni as your maestro.” …………. Giorgia Zanellato and Daniele Bortotto ( a folding measuring stick and a measuring tape.)
The most intriguing fact, in the end is not to much the capacity of designers to have selected the right gift for Achille but, rather, to have identified – within the infinite world of anonymous objects – the one that means something for them.
From the everyday object to the rare one, what we see here are a hundred different interpretations of the concept of anonymous design, coming from a hundred minds from all over the world.
100 X 100 Achille is thus not only a collection of things that draw from a century long history of material culture, but also a catalogue of ways of looking at the world
Amongst the objects presented were also –
a toy car from Francesco Faccin,
a pocket knife from Enzo Mari,
a bolt and nut from Philippe Nigro,
a scale ruler from Andrea Branzi,
a pasta colander from mischer’traxler,
a bollard from Uga La Pietra,
a banknote from Ron Gilad,
a mousetrap from Ingo Maurer
a folding hanger from Michele de Lucchi,
a lighter by Giulio Iacchetti
a fidget spinner from Sovrappensiero
a curved brush from Leonardo Talarico
“ To us, he represents the simple type of elegant design we grew up with,”. “The best part of the evening was seeing and meeting all the designers who came here for him, to celebrate design and simplicity.”………. Marco Zavagno and Enrica Cavarzan, ( Zaven ) ( a beautiful, unadorned Oriental sieve made in metal.)
“ Castiglioni is a happy, intelligent, free-spirited thought. Even though he’s gone, that thought will always be with us ” …….. Odo Fioravanti ( a twist tie to close plastic bags.)
“ We find it fascinating how many anonymous objects are part of our daily life. Achille Castiglioni taught us to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary ” ……………. Analogia Project, ( a puntarelle – device for slicing the buds of Catalonian chicory )
” My mom always told me that when you go to a birthday party you do not have to bring an expensive gift, as to not embarrass the host. And this is exactly what we asked. Then we realized that this is a very human project, that made us discover unusual aspects of the life of the designers, many of whom are bound by a sincere affection for my father. It was also a way to find out how their life is deeply tied to the stories of anonymous objects.”
For example, Giuseppe Arezzi brought us a shovel obtained from an old pan, explaining the story of his grandfather and Sicily, where this object belongs to tradition. ” ……………… Giovanna Castiglioni
” Achille Castiglioni used to teach to his students, at the Turin Polytechnic by making them observe these anonymous objects for hours: the purpose was to unveil their essence, “the key element of design” …………….. Carlo Castiglioni
“At times it has been difficult to convey the concept of anonymous design to the invited designers. In some cases, the gift is a citation of their own works that started from anonymous objects. Others have worked by assonance with their elective materials. In the end, each object is a kind of self-portrait, but also a way to say that they have leaned something from Achille Castiglioni, from his approach to research and project development.” ………………… curator Dardi.
“Some objects are precious, rare and unique,””Like the Swiss army leather backpack that Riccardo Blumer sent, which still contains the soldier’s helmet, mess tin and drinking bottle.” …… curator Alessi
” Careful, constant research. This is no job for the incurious: designing means looking for the meaning of things, questioning the typology of an object, its use within a space. ” ………………. Achille Castiglioni
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Corraini Edizioni, with essays by Carlo Castiglioni, Giovanna Castiglioni, Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi, with photography by Emanuele Zamponi.
• Dimension: 12.5 x 17.0 cm
• Languages: texts in English and Italian
• Binding: paperback with flaps
• Pages: 176
• 1st edition: 02/2018
• Edition: 02/2018
• ISBN: 978-88-7570-707-1
Also on display at the Achille Castiglioni Foundation will be reproductions of items and furnishings produced by companies historically associated with Achille Castiglioni.
Alessi will reproduce the iconic Bavero tea cups, special versions of its Dry flatware, and fruit bowl/colander.
Zanotta will instead create re-editions of the Albero plant stand, and a special edition of the Servomuto side table.
CEDIT Ceramiche d’Italia re-proposes the iconic Lapis ceramic vase – a unique and ingenious piece of design developed in three dimensions and different colors, a palpable tribute to the designs of Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.
FLOS will issue reproductions of the spot Ventosa and designed by only Achille the small reading lighting kit Nasa, and a special oversized version of historical Lampadina.
100 x 100 Project Exhibition Launch Party
The exhibition “100 x 100 Achille” was inaugurated on the 18th February, 2018 at the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni as a centennial celebration of the Milanese maestro’s birth, and celebrated Achille Castiglioni, and the multitude of ways in which the grand master influenced contemporary design and today’s leading designers.
As might be expected, it wasn’t a formal affair, but a laughter-filled birthday party with glass-raising guests heartily welcomed by Giovanna Castiglioni and Carlo Castiglioni
Other Exhibitions celebrating Castiglioni’s birthday centenary
In celebration of this momentous anniversary, the Achille Castiglioni Foundation is planning many other events, including select re-editions and special versions of products created by the Master, produced by different design companies.
Throughout 2018 there will be many opportunities to remember, rediscover, and introduce young designers to the work of Achille Castiglioni.
An event-filled year, entirely dedicated to one of the most beloved, ingenious, and revolutionary turn-of-the-century designers (1918-2002).
Apr 17 – 22, 2018
Pavilions 6 – 10
The Politecnico Design System joins the international Salone del Mobile with a tribute to one of its great alumni and expert, the late Achille Castiglioni, for a 100th birthday.
The booth will evoke the themes of games and anonymous objects capturing visitors’ curiosity with a variety of activities, each in tone with the intrinsic characteristics with which Achille Castiglioni faced work and life.
In collaboration with the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni.
Dimensione Domestica – Atto III
25 May – 21 December 2018
Reconstruction of a dining room for an exhibition staged in Tokyo in 1984curated by Beppe Finessi, display design by Marco Marzini, graphic design by Italo Lupi
Fondazione Achille Castiglioni, Milan
This exhibition, curated by Beppe Finessi, will recreate Achille Castiglioni’s concept of 1984, and his dining room.
The show scheduled to run from 25 May until 21 December 2018, will use graphics by Italo Lupi, and be staged by Marco Marzini.
September 2018-February 2019
Monograph exhibition at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan
Achille Castiglioni Visionario
19 May-23 September
M.A.X Museo, Chiasso, Switzerland
While his designs could be quirky, Castiglioni followed a rigorous approach that led to the lasting products we know today.
Leading figures from the world of architecture and design choose their absolute favorite Castiglioni creations and tell us what makes them so special ………….
Taccia Lamp for Flos (1962)
“ The Taccia is a classic. I love products that look contemporary while having a design heritage. When I first started designing lighting, this was a piece that resonated with me and inspired me to create a point of difference. I’m a fan of altered perspective in design, and with Taccia, Castiglioni created the illusion that the light emanates from the shade when it’s actually the base of this lamp that houses the bulb, with a concave spun reflector shade and a blown glass diffuser that can be positioned to adjust the light. I also like the use of simple materials. The lamp is formed from a metal base, aluminum reflector, and transparent glass diffuser, which creates the illusion. It is, without question, one of my favorite lighting pieces. ”
Architectural designer (London)
Castiglioni’s collection of found objects
“ It’s always difficult to choose a single favorite design. So often it’s the way of thinking that you want to characterize. Looking through a book of Castiglioni’s work recently, I was particularly drawn to the photographs of his collection of anonymous objects. They evoke very strongly the atmosphere of purposeful order that I remember from his studio and his fascination, as a designer, with the ‘reciprocal sympathetic bond’: ‘I’d rather the things I designed were not recognized because of their brand, but for the reciprocal sympathetic bond that is created between the person using the object and the person who designed it.’ ”
Designer (New York)
Fascist Cultural Center (1940)
“ When Castiglioni created this work in 1940, Mussolini ruled Italy as a fascist dictator. In addition to the implicit absurdity of creating a building from cheese, the title ‘cultural center’ itself carries an irony. Extraordinary food, including cheese, is one of the many things that Italian culture is known for. I enjoy the thought of the nationalist fascist bureaucrats sitting all day in a stinking, oily room of cheese, tormented by the recontextualization of a cultural touchstone. It leads one to consider: What material would be appropriate for a ‘cultural center’ for the current U.S. administration? ”
Founding partner and creative director, wHY Architecture (Los Angeles)
Mezzadro Tractor Seat Stool for Zanotta (1957)
“ The stool is great because it’s so witty, kind of a play on Duchamp’s readymades with fun Italian agricultural chic. It’s Castiglioni at his best: ironic and playful, turning the humble tractor seat into a high-end design object. It also mixes different items from everyday life—the fixing screw, for example, was a kind found in bicycles at the time. I like the casual nature of this combination, the curious openness to incorporate diverse objects to create a truly new design language. ”
“ That same enthusiasm that he used to bring out to train us to be curious, Achille used to dismantle and rebuild things, to analyse the toys he would brings us, to do puzzles, to force us to look at TV shows to understand the logic of the sets. He would bring us to the fun fair to helps us figure out the mechanisms of the merry go rounds, to look into their lights, he would make us lose ourselves in the mirror labyrinths while laughing his head off. “……… Giovanna Castiglioni
“ If you are not curious”, he would say to his students, ” and if you are not interested in the others, please leave it: being a designer is just not the job for you”……… Giovanna Castiglioni
About Achille Castiglioni
Achille Castiglioni (1918-2002) was an Italian architect and designer who made a delightful variety of objects from lighting to furniture.
He was born and raised in Milan, the son of a sculptor, brother to Livio and Pier Giacomo who were also architects and designers.
He studied architecture at Politecnico di Milano and graduated after serving in WWII.
He passed away in 2002, but his influence has carried on.
His legacy has been enthusiastically shared by his children, Carlo and Giovanna Castiglioni, co-founders of Fondazione Achille Castiglioni.
“ The structure was pyramidal, there were no partners. First came the architect and then the assistants, whose roles and work he respected. Everything was planned and nothing happened by chance. The environment was serious, and sometimes very tense. The silence was broken only by music from a radio (since 1965 the Brionvega RR126) or the jazz records that Max Huber brought in. Many different projects were tackled over the course of the day; for architecture, interiors and displays the input of the collaborators was sought while Achille worked on product design almost alone.” …………………. Antonella Gornati, ( Achille Castiglioni’s assistant from 1981 onwards
This was a very different process from the days when Achille worked with his brothers.
With Pier Giacomo until 1968 and with Livio until 1979, Achille was in total creative symbiosis.
The former represented the seriousness of rigour, the latter the brilliance of experimentation.
With their death, the architect lost fundamental opportunities for the exchange of ideas and for a long time the pace of things slowed down at the studio.
“Castiglioni detested any kind of exploitation. He did not accept compromise and was capable of halting projects even when they were well under way if they no longer convinced him. The rigidity of his personality (this is a less well-known side of his character than the proverbial high spirits) was accompanied by a very poor head for business. The contracts he signed were never advantageous for the economics of the studio”. ……… Antonella Gornati, ( Achille Castiglioni’s assistant from 1981 onwards )
The work that Castiglioni carried out stemmed from his curiosity to students at Politecnico di Milano during the lectures he prepared with great care with Eugenio Bettinelli.
He devoted considerable time to teaching and his lectures had a multimedia character long before the digital era.
He brought in relevant objects, projected photographs, used cuttings from newspapers and magazines. He liked to compare his work with that of the colleagues he admired. Above all Ponti, but also Zanuso, Magistretti, Albini and Breuer.
He had met the latter in the circles of Dino Gavina’s coterie in Bologna along with Man Ray.
However, his interest in art came from his wife Irma, who died in 2016, and his daughter Monica, a jewellery designer, rather than from his father Giannino, who was a respected sculptor.
The artists whose work Castiglioni did follow were Carol Rama, who was introduced to him by the critic Lea Vergine, Dadamaino and Stefano Arienti, who was very young at the time.
Achille was attracted by technology and by new materials, by play and by the speed of communication with the telephone.
Throughout his 52-year career, Castiglioni never ceased to surprise, amaze, and inspire, designing roughly 150 objects, including lamps, watches, and vacuum cleaners
Until his brother Pier Giacomo’s death in 1968, Castiglioni worked alongside his brother on many of these projects.
Most of the objects he created were at once aesthetically beautiful and utilitarian.
About Chiara Alessi
Born in Verbania, in 1981
Chiara is a curator and essayist in the field of design.
She collaborates with the main magazines of the sector and with some newspapers.
For some years now she has been dealing with the new culture of projecting in Italy and its implications.
Alessi teaches Product Service System Design at the Milan Polytechnic.
She published After the Zero years. The new Italian design (Edizioni Laterza, 2014) and Design without a wise designer and an investigation of the “other” Italian design professions (Edizioni Laterza, 2016).
She is in the group of curators of the XI edition of the Triennale Design Museum in Milan, dedicated to the history of Italian design.
She lives and works in Milan.
About Domitilla Dardi
She is a historical and design curator.
Since 2010 she is curator for the design of the MAXXI-Architecture of Rome.
She is a lecturer and consultant for the Master sector at the IED in Rome.
Since 2016 Dardi is Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona.
In 2016 and 2017 she curated the Object section of Miart, International Fair of Contemporary Art, Milan.
She writes for several trade magazines and is the author of numerous essays and monographs.
About Calvi Brambilla
Fabio Calvi (right) was born in Pavia in 1969.
He studied at Polytechnic Universitiy of Milan and Brunel University of West London and graduated in architecture in 1996.
He was assistant of architect Gianfranco Frattini and then of the designer Ferruccio Laviani.
In 2004 he opened his own studio.
From 2005 to 2012 he was the art director of all exhibits, shops, and events by Flos.
Paolo Brambilla (left) was born in Lecco in 1973.
He studied at Polytechnic University of Milan and at UPC of Barcelona, and graduated in architecture in 1999.
In 2001 he won the Europan 6 Honorable Mention for a housing project.
From 2005 to 2013 he was Junior Lecturer of Interior Design at the Polytechnic University of Milan and from 2013 to 2017 was member of the board of the Chamber of Architects of Milan.
In 2006 Fabio Calvi and Paolo Brambilla set up an office for design and architecture in Milan known as Calvi Brambilla
They designed shops, fair stands and products for Arketipo, Barovier & Toso, Bialetti, Cassina, Comfort Zone, DGA, FontanaArte, Flos, Grohe, Molteni & C., Pianca, Saba, Serralunga, Olivari, Tonelli, Varaschin and Zanotta.
In 2015 the exhibition at Palazzo della Permanente in Milan celebrating the 50th anniversary of FLOS was selected the Triennale di Milano for the Gold Medal for Italian Architecture.
The same year, the firm won the competition LC50 for an installation dedicated to Le Corbusier and Zanotta stand at Salone del Mobile was selected for the ADI Design Index 2016.
In 2017 the booth for Flos at Euroluce 2017 won the Salone del Mobile.Milano Award as best exhibition set up.